Review Summary: Instrumental acrobatics, performed through the lens of pop-punk.
I'm not majoring in marketing, no, but still something tells me that Icarus the Owl are doing everything correctly in order to sell their second full-length. Their name’s memorable, the album artwork is as grandiose as ever, and even the song titles are a delight, being a blend of importance and classiness. Upon further inspection, though, what’s most surprising is that Love Always, Leviathan holds up to these preconceived notions rather nicely. The music’s just as refreshing as the artwork would suggest, albeit not quite in the same way as expected.
It’s a tricky road to tread, attempting to make headway in the scene in which Icarus the Owl are contained. Technical pop-punk isn’t exactly the most innovative amalgam in the indie scene lately; it’s necessary that the next band to carry the genre’s torch any further do it with some creativity. Love Always, Leviathan is aware that it has to rattle audiences in order to impact, and so it examines the foundation upon which it was constructed in the first place. Clean guitar tapping is certainly here, delightful clean vocals grace the album’s presence, and soothing ballads find their home inside the tracklist, as expected.
However, the edge that Icarus the Owl possesses is their keen sense of instrumentation. Each song carries a memorable melody, sure, but how they go about achieving that melody is the most roundabout way possible. The group enjoys offbeat rhythms, usually uncomfortable time signatures and unexpected syncopation, and this feature does well to attract new fans as well as satisfy the loyal ones. “Swimming With Weights” is acrobatic by nature, for instance, and is an immediate standout track. The memorable chorus, irresistible verses, and easygoing bridge exist, somehow, alongside such counterintuitive time signatures. This is evidence of the band’s knack for grabbing and retaining attention, as well as the fact that the album rolls by rather quickly. Icarus the Owl are well aware of how essential dynamics are, and because of this they flesh out each new color right before the previous one putters out.
The technical gymnastics aren’t the only distinguishable feature about the group, though. Joey Rubenstein’s powerful vocals soar above and beyond the call of duty, presenting serene melodies that accompany memorable lyrics. There are many opportunities for his voice to shine; perhaps the most immediate example is “What We Had Was Never Love.” Harmonies coexist with theatric musicianship, in a manner of which Casey Crescenzo himself wouldn’t disapprove.
There’s much space utilized for carving individual identity, though - although there are many specific moments reminiscent of particular artists in comparable scenes, it’s honestly hard to draw too much comparison to others. One attribute that Icarus the Owl possess is that at the end of the day, they can be a little hard to define. Only you can take it upon yourself to discover exactly what audience Love Always, Leviathan caters to, and whether or not you’re a part of it.